Shreyas Talpade’s sports saga is sincere but sluggish


STORY: Defying age—and society’s perception of what is deemed ‘normal’—Pravin Tambe (Shreyas Talpade) becomes the first-ever Indian cricketer to mark his international debut in his 40s. Mind you: Tambe’s story is not for conformists, but those who believe in the magic of a promising tomorrow: come rain or shine.

REVIEW: In spirituality, it is said that once a conscious creator sets an intention, he/she exhibits unwavering faith—even when their present is in shambles—till that desire manifests in the material world. If that theory is ever put to test, Pravin Tambe would be a living embodiment of that. At 41, the real-life cricketer launched his international cricketing career with the highly publicised Indian Premier League (IPL). No, he didn’t want gold or riches, but only to play the coveted Ranji Trophy tournament once.

Jayprad Desai’s sports drama—albeit few misses—substantiates that when it comes to being plucked from obscurity, age is never a hindrance. One’s belief against that possibility, is.

Be it the rags-to-riches track or the premise of a quintessential stubborn sportsman bursting onto mainstream scene against all odds, these stories usually start from the end or vice versa. This one, however, opens with a back shot of a mystery man—turns out to be Parambrata Chattopadhyay, later—in Nauvari sari, nathni and a posture suggesting he’ll break into an elaborate Lavani (Maharasthrian dance, if you are wondering) any moment. The element of intrigue established right in that frame. The story, then, traces back to the origin of the initial scene, which revolves around a Pravin Tambe in the 80s, 90s all the way up to the moment he scores a hattrick in 2014.

Thanks to the popularity of the all-rounder in question, unlike ‘Dangal’, among others, Desai did not have to hype him up before throwing in that dramatic (good dramatic) climax. But, he did. In an attempt to distance itself from, and avoid comparisons to other sports sagas, writer Kiran Yadnyopavit surrenders the script to the enticing trappings of emotional dominance over technical details. Cinematically speaking, the duo needed to show more confidence on the source material and maybe start with the politics of the game: an open secret. And then proceed on to showing the moral dilemmas of the man inside of the cricketer. There’s the chawl, an aged mother tossing and turning over the uncertainty that looms over her son’s head, and a wife who is raising three kids—two by virtue of age, and the third by denial. Unorthodox stories demand out-of-the-box storytelling and ‘Kaun Pravin Tambe?’ deserved better, narrative-wise. That, and the exaggerated background score.

But, to no one’s surprise, Shreyas Talpade camouflages most of the inconsistencies with his restrained rage and hopeless optimism. Of course, being a Marathi, the actor glides into the life of an everyday Mumbaikar with utmost ease. In one scene, after being rebuked by his arch nemesis, Talpade’s Tambe offloads his years of pent-up frustration in a dresser, surrounded by powder-smeared faces—perhaps one wanted to be an actress and another a singer, all work at dance bars now; must be the early 2000s—and he implodes. That scene should have been the show-stealer, instead we watch him mourn his dwindling dreams from afar. After his impressive act in similar arrangements in ‘Iqbal’, this was a missed opportunity. What a pity!

Parambrata has, in recent years, carved a niche for himself as the bankable art house-y second-wheeling star to the protagonist. In ‘Tambe’ we are in awe of his range as an actor with a dash of grey to his on-screen persona. Ashish Vidyarthi’s role of an offbeat coach is yet another character that is neither black, nor white. Playing Mrs. Tambe in the movie is Anjali Patil: a clean, confident avatar. Not that we would expect anything less from her.

Unless you are venturing into the sports biopic genre with ‘Kaun Pravin Tambe?’—let’s be honest here—it will not leave you stupefied. What it will do is pump in a fresh dose of enthusiasm to chase your own dreams, and that in itself is an achievement. After all, as Vidyarthi says, “Life ho ya match, all you need is one good over.”